For just about all of history, it was (and still is by some, unfortunately) deemed absurd for a woman to do things alone. For so many of us, friends and family members have strongly disregarded our desires to travel and see the world unless it includes a human counterpart, preferably male.
And yes, we cannot ignore the fact that the world is a dangerous place, especially for women. However, it is equally as absurd to abide by those unwritten rules, when human beings should be able to do anything they set their minds to. So ladies, are you ready to venture out into the big, bad, beautiful and mysterious world alone? Me too.
Here’s the thing: many women have traveled alone and had a wonderful experience. This was primarily because they took many precautions. And it’s true — if you’re going to travel alone, you need to be safe. Listen to your internal alarms and think about the outcomes before entering a potentially risky situation.
Here are some helpful hints from yours truly to consider when traveling alone.
1. Bring a portable charger.
You know that device that’s practically a beloved family member? Yes, that one. Us modern day women have the incredible advantage of having a 24/7 ability to contact others at the touch of a button. However, these trusty little sidekicks tend to, you know, die. So, it’s important to have a power source with you at all times. This is great for calling a cab or looking up a bus schedule after late night dinners in a new city, since your surroundings are unfamiliar, especially in the dark. The worst thing in a potentially risky situation would be a lack of access to help and support, so make sure your metal pal is charged at all times.
2. Crossbody purses.
ALL HAIL the crossbody purse. No, but seriously. While studying abroad, my little waterproof crossbody was a lifesaver. I had that thing strapped to me during every trip and had no pickpocketing trouble whatsoever. When you have a purse that simply hangs over your shoulder, it is much easier for people to grab onto that bad boy. Having something attached to your body in a more secure form will warn off potential pickpockets. Whenever I am helping students plan for their trip abroad, I strongly advocate investing in one simple crossbody. I’d recommend something small and neutral colored so that you’re not drawing too much attention to yourself and it matches everything you’ve packed.
3. Read. The. Reviews.
This mostly goes for hostels and hotels, but honestly, read reviews on anything. You’ll find that most people are surprisingly honest, especially if they’ve had a bad experience. Airbnbs can be great and affordable, but when traveling alone, you’ll want to look into every detail. How secure is the apartment? Will the host be home or traveling? Look into accommodations, too, so that you’ll know how prepared you’ll need to be. A place that reads “stains on the pillows” is probably not ideal, even if it’s 10 minutes closer to the city center.
4. Dress to blend in.
I know this seems to contradict everything your mother ever told you (be yourself, wear that bright pink skirt!). However, when traveling, don’t draw too much attention to yourself. Dangerous people may be walking around the same parts of the city as you, so don’t ask for their attention with a bright purple Gucci jacket or an expensive shoulder bag. Think “plain Jane,” and avoid clothes with designer labels.
5. Leave your expensive jewelry at home.
Remember that family heirloom ring that Grandma Jean gave you for your birthday? The one that’s worth hundreds of dollars, but even more in personal value, and sparkles really bright? Yeah, leave that special friend behind. You will feel so guilty when poor Grandma Jean has to hear that it fell off in the Trevi Fountain or some old man with a mustache wanted to take a quick glimpse at it and then ran away with it. Don’t give yourself another thing to worry about — leave it at home where it’s safe.
6. If you’re abroad, buy a cheap phone with a small amount of data.
International phone plans can be a total rip-off. Oftentimes they’re incredibly expensive and you’ll hardly use them. However, it is nice to have backup data for emergencies. A burner phone, though it sounds sketchy, might be a good idea if you’re going to be abroad for an extended period of time. They’re generally pretty cheap to buy and pay for monthly. Plus, if there’s an emergency and you cannot use your Wi-Fi to make a phone call, it’s always good to have a backup plan. Say you buy the phone in England, but you’re in France when you need to make the call — believe me, the 12 cents/minute for an international call is definitely worth it.
7. Stay in contact with someone back home.
Your friends and family (you know, the ones who were hesitant to send you in the first place) might appreciate a regular phone call. Even if it’s just to say “hey, I’m alive” or “here are a few photos of me stuffing a Belgian waffle in my face.” It’s always good to keep in touch with people back home, even if you want to own this experience alone — don’t totally fall off the face of the earth.
8. Pack Light.
No, you certainly do not need eight different shades of blue jeans. In fact, you’ll probably end up re-wearing your favorite pair anyway. My advice for the over-packer is to try and pack clothes that are neutral and versatile so that you can wear many different combos of the small amount you’ve packed. The one thing you can overpack is undergarments since you might not know exactly when you’re going to hit the laundromat next. Jeans and sweaters, however, can certainly be worn more than once, so don’t pack for a family of eight.
Okay, so you’re most likely not communicating with people as often as you normally do. There isn’t really a neighbor to share that one funny story with, or a coworker to tell about your experience in the French café line. But you do want to remember those simple moments — and it’s free!! So, jot them down. The good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful. You’ll thank me later.
10. Meet new people.
Making friends from other parts of the world and learning about other cultures is priceless. You cannot compare those interactions and experiences with anything else, so treasure those moments and take advantage of every opportunity to learn from others. Hey, you never know — if you decide to do solo-trip round 2, you just may have a friend in Italy you can stay with!
Julia is a full-time Master’s student in Buffalo, NY. She is currently working as a Study Abroad Adviser at Canisius College, where she helps American students with their plans to study overseas. She has aspirations to live a life full of travel and hopes to continue delving into the world of blog writing.
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